London, UK

CAN (Critical Architecture Network) is an award-winning architecture studio based in London that designs buildings, environments and installations, working with set designers, artists, engineers and makers to create unexpected and characterful projects. They begin every project with a rigorous analysis of it's cultural and physical context and a scrutiny of the brief.


The formation of CAN

The idea of the studio was formed quite a few years back and slowly evolved on the side of other work. It was an opportunity to explore ideas and concepts with different collaborators without the shackles of a singular office approach and way of working. The collaborators were almost always from different creative industries and I learnt as much about architecture from them as I did from architects, if not more. This eventually led to CAN and I hope we've managed to retain the same pluralistic approach to our projects.


Don’t wait for projects to come to you

90% of our work has come from us approaching clients/curators/developers we don't know with either a proposal or an invitation to coffee. There is this myth in architecture that if you are a good architect work will fall into your lap. This may be the case with more established firms but as a new practice if people don't know who you are you are never going to get a commission, no matter how good you are!


Ambition comes from the gap between expectation and reality

For me, the main driver to expand the practice is to get larger and more diverse projects. Variety is everything and I think it is important for the development of ideas which can inform different types of projects in different ways. Reality never quite meets expectations but I think if it did we wouldn't be being ambitious enough. 


Striving for diversity and stability

The immediate challenges centre around the virus crisis and adapting to remote working, trying to survive. Following that we want to grow to about 10 full-time staff which will give us enough capacity to take on the scale of work we want to do. There is a fine balance to be found which will give us the flexibility to keep our ideas fresh but also provide us with some semblance of financial stability.


Mat Barnes Portrait by JimStephenson Mat Barnes

Mies x King George  CAN  Photo by Jim Stephenson Mat Barnes

Photography Jim Stephenson

All That Could Have Been CAN Photo by Tom Bowditch Mat Barnes

Photography Tom Bowditch

Lomax Studio CAN Photo by Andy Stagg Mat Barnes

Photography Andy Stagg

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